Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA), released its research reports on “Moving Towards Decent Employment for South Asian Immigrants in Toronto” at their virtual Annual General Meeting.
Funded by United Way Greater Toronto (UWGT), CASSA undertook a three-year research study in 2018 to understand the employment barriers, needs, and recommendations of South Asian immigrant communities in Toronto. The community input gathered through this process culminated in a Needs Assessment Report.
In 2019 CASSA also sought input from stakeholders, agencies, and policy advocates on policy recommendations to alleviate the barriers and address inequities that were highlighted in the Needs Assessment Report. This input lead to the development of a Policy Recommendations Report targeted to the federal and provincial governments, and employers.
The research study involved over 250 South Asian immigrant participants in the City of Toronto and more than twenty agencies and employment equity experts through key informant interviews, focus groups, and surveys. Among the barriers and challenges highlighted by participants to gaining decent employment included the following:
· Language barriers including aversion to accents,
· discrimination in hiring and promotion,
· lack of credential recognition,
· lack of affordable childcare,
· inaccessible resources and information,
· lack of accessible training and mentorship opportunities,
· perception of “foreign experience” being inferior to “Canadian experience”,
· lack of legislation protecting temporary workers,
· lack of opportunities commensurate to actual experience and education,
· lack of awareness of employee rights and fear of challenging employers,
· skepticism about legislation actually leading to charges for employers,
· and lack of adequate transportation outside of the downtown core of Toronto.
One focus group participant described her experience with employment in Toronto as: “I went to the University of Toronto and did a course after immigrating but I did not get a good job. I was only getting one to two shifts on-call and teaching only two courses for a few hours. I know it was my accent. I talked to folks who work at the school, they said it was my accent. I was even teaching at a Toronto school before that, but they didn’t like it. They wanted a Canadian accent."
CASSA’s Policy Recommendations Report presents 18 recommendations some of which include the following:
· enforcing mandatory employment equity legislation at the provincial level,
· development of a workforce hiring strategy with targets and measurable indicators to hire immigrants commensurate to their qualifications and to train employers on inclusive and anti-racist workplaces,
· collection of disaggregated raced-based employment data that is coordinated with immigration data,
· working with employers to develop mandatory on-the-job training for vulnerable workers,
· disincentivizing temporary/contract work and incentivizing full-time employment,
· and extending the definition of employee in the Employment Standards Act to include (in)dependent contract workers.
“In 1988, CASSA was founded on the principle of supporting South Asian immigrants with credential recognition. Over three decades later, we still see qualified South Asian immigrants struggling to find decent employment. South Asian immigrants have faced enough of this systemic racism, it is high time that all actors and stakeholders work together to improve their employment outcomes.” said Samya Hasan, Executive Director of CASSA.
CASSA aims to use these reports to run an advocacy campaign over the next six to eight months. CASSA will engage with policy makers, politicians, employers, regulatory bodies, advocates, and racialized immigrant communities to advocate for the adoption of their recommendations.
Needs Assessment Report:
Policy Recommendations Report: